You don’t have to be Aaron Sorkin to write a good video script. In fact, it’d probably help if you aren’t Aaron Sorkin – that guy is wordy as hell! While it may seem initially daunting, I believe anyone can write a video script that’s clear, concise, and most importantly, engaging. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re scripting a video:
There’s a reason practically every single script, from a short YouTube video to a feature-length film, uses the same, basic format – because it works. Even if you’re just making a quick and dirty video, it still helps to use the proper format. This format gives you a sense of your video’s length – generally, one page is about a minute of screen time. Experienced writers can look at a script and immediately know how long it feels, and where you might need to cut down. Plus, if you want to run a script by someone, it helps if it’s in an easily legible, industry-standard format.
If you’re not sure how to format a script, don’t worry! You don’t need to learn anything. Fire up screenwriting software like Final Draft, Fade In, Celtix, or WriterDuet, and it will automatically format everything for you. All of these options also offer free trials – perfect if you’re looking to script your first video or aren’t sure if a certain program is right for you. Trust me, it’s so much easier to learn the basics of screenwriting software than it is to fiddle with settings in Word or Google Docs. Spend that time writing your video!
Keep It Simple
Many new scriptwriters tend to write long, overly verbose scripts in an effort to sound “smart”. Put down the thesaurus – you’re not writing the next Great American Novel here. This is a video that’s designed to impart information, generate excitement for your product or service, or help build your brand. Simplicity is key.
I’ve found it can be helpful to make a quick list of points you want to hit in your video before you even start writing. That way, you can easily look back and make sure your script says what you wanted to say. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget and go off on unrelated tangents. But despite the temptation to over-explain yourself, clear, concise writing will always trump long, wordy meandering. Which leads directly into…
Read It Out Loud
Even professional screenwriters read their dialogue out loud after they’ve written it. Why? It lets them hear how their words actually sound coming out of someone’s mouth. Often, writers fall into the trap of not writing the same way they speak, leading to scripts that sound unnatural, forced, and just plain weird. Reading your words out loud will help you tremendously when it comes to rewriting. Speaking of…
Do A Lot Of Drafts
Nobody gets it right the first time. As the old saying goes, writing is rewriting. Write a draft, scrap it, write it again. Each draft is an important step in getting to the final product. The best writing looks effortless, but it actually has tons of time, thought, and energy put into it. And don’t be afraid to write a bad first draft! People are only going to see the final product.
Play To Your Strengths
Are you funny? Feel free to have some humor in your script. Are you more serious? Then scrap the jokes. Do you use a lot of slang in your everyday speech? Keep it in the script! Write in your voice and don’t try to be someone you’re not. The best scripts are the ones that feel authentic, and your audience will be able to detect inauthentic writing from a mile away. The best videos let you get a sense of who the writer is – not the persona they’re trying to put on to impress someone.
What do you think of these tips? Did they help you in your writing? Let me know!
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